When the Province of Ontario enacted new physical distancing rules under the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the decision that the City of Ottawa made to close all of its parks was reaffirmed. The closure includes all amenities and equipment such as swings, courts, skateboard ramps, off-leash dog enclosures, benches and picnic tables, ball diamonds and sports fields.
However, the City allows people to walk, run, or ride their bikes directly through the park, but lingering, gatherings or prolonged stays are prohibited.
While most people understand and have abided by these closures and restrictions, many have asked us common questions on the rationale or why simple use is prohibited. Here are some answers to those prevalent questions.
Why can’t just my kid and I kick the ball around the park?
The reason parks are closed is that they are natural attractions for people to group and gather, which goes against the physical distancing measures.
While it seems so harmless for one parent to kick or throw a ball with their kid in the park, you need to look beyond just those two family members.
What could happen is two more people show up, followed by a few more parents and kids. Before you know it, you have a group of people in the park – which increases the risk for compromising physical distancing and spreading the virus.
That is why there are no exceptions to the rule, no matter how simple or harmless it appears. We understand how this pandemic has turned our lives upside down and disrupted the simple things in life. But we need to stick together with this battle to plank the curve and avoid a prolonged spread – which would further disrupt our lives.
Why I can’t sit down on a park bench or have a picnic with my family – while practicing physical distancing with others?
Like in the previous answer, we can’t allow any exceptions to the restrictions. When people see others using the park, it will attract more users.
Also, park equipment and amenities are not cleaned or sanitized. This means the COVID-19 virus can present on any surface – metal, wood or plastic. In fact, the virus can live on surfaces for not just hours, but days. This includes park benches, play equipment and picnic tables.
This puts you and your family at risk to contract the COVID-19 virus and spread it to loved ones.
What is permitted in the park?
The answer to what is permitted is very simple and basic. You can walk, run or ride your bike through the park to get to your destination. However, you cannot linger around the park, use any equipment or sit on a bench. No prolonged stays and no gatherings – even for a simple chat.
And when you are cutting through the park, you must practice physical distancing – keeping two metres from others crossing the park.
You can also walk your dog through the park where this is allowed, while respecting the established leashing requirements for the site. Stopping in a park to throw a ball, to let your dog play or to linger in one area of the park with your dog is not permitted.
Who do I call if I see people using the park and gathering?
You can register your complaint with the City’s By-law and Regulatory Services by calling3-1-1. By-law is enforcing these restrictions with education and warnings, but not adhering to the rules can result in a $880 fine, including victim surcharges.
But if you see someone in the park, do not be confrontational – with shouting and yelling. This is a stressful time for everyone. While we are practicing physical distancing and safety, we also need practice kindness – because we are all in this together.
Why are there no signs in some parks?
Park closure signs have been installed in our 800 parks – especially near equipment and play structures. Some of these signs have been vandalized or ripped down. Even when a sign is no longer present, these restrictions and regulations remain in place.
Restrictions and closures have a purpose – stopping the spread, saving lives
Parks, like other public spaces, encourage gatherings and multiple users. While we are striving to plank the curve of this virus spread, we need to sacrifice and restrain from doing the regular and normal things we usually do – like enjoying a park and playing sports. This pandemic has really proved that we have taken many of life’s simple pleasures for granted.
These restrictions and closures have a real purpose – to prevent further spread of the virus and, more importantly, save lives. The sooner we can stop the spread, the sooner we can enjoy our parks and the in-person company of our friends.